Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Favorite Stuff for Knitting and Yarny Goodness

I've been thinking a lot lately about simplifying everything. Life feels so complicated sometimes, and simplifying where I can just makes sense. Simplifying means different things to different people. To me, it means getting things out of the way that are keeping me from feeling comfortable in my own space and being able to get things done easily and as effortlessly as possible.

With this goal in mind, I went through my bathroom and got rid of expired products, stuff I knew I was never going to use, old makeup, etc., etc.. I need to do this in my kitchen. Like, big time. How many measuring cups does one person need? Apparently I think I need ALL of the measuring cups. Same with wooden spoons and tongs.

This got me thinking about my craft supplies, including my knitting supplies. I'm much more hesitant to get rid of craft and art supplies than I am with pretty much anything else. They don't go bad! I have them well-organized! Don't touch my watercolor paper! STEP AWAY FROM THE YARN!

So here's the thing. I have found that there are some things I really can't live without when it comes to knitting and yarn.

1. Yarn

I know: DUH!  I often say my real hobby is collecting yarn, and I just happen to also knit a lot. Do not ask me to cull my yarn stash, because it will not happen. I love all of my yarn. Also: I am a yarn snob. If it's mostly acrylic, I won't touch it. I just don't like the way acrylic feels. I prefer natural fibers, with a real focus on protein fibers (wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere, silk). I don't own a lot of cotton or linen, though I do have times when I enjoy working with those. I have my stash very well organized and inventoried. I can pretty easily put my hands on the yarn I'm looking for without too much digging. Over the summer, I even made labels for my yarn containers to make locating what I need even easier!

2. Knitting Needles

This is another duh, but hear me out. Every knitter has their favorite knitting needles, right? But we have a tendency--at least I do--to collect many different kinds of needles. At one point, I had lots of nickel-plated needles, bamboo needles, and other wooden needles. Several years ago, I found out I'm highly allergic to nickel, so I got rid of all of my nickel-plated needles. A couple of weeks ago, I realized I still have a lot of needles I just avoid because I don't like their join or their tips aren't pointy enough. So, I pulled out the needles I avoid and put them in a small box. My favorite needles are Knitter's Pride Symfonie Dreamz fixed circulars or interchangeable. I love the join. I love how pointy they are. I love the smoothness of the finish. Yes, they still have a little metal on them, but I can live with it because that part is usually covered with yarn. My point to all of this: I have reduced my needle collection down to just what I enjoy using, which makes my life easier. I also moved from a hanging circular needle holder in an armoire to zipped binder pouches in a glittery pink binder. I even made labels for the pouches with my Cricut. It's super fun, and I have my needles right next to where I do most of my knitting. Simplify!!!

3. Ball Winder and Swift

I know many knitters who don't own ball winders or swifts, and they are perfectly happy with life. I have three ball winders. Two are the classic plastic ball winder you see at most yarn shops. They are small and portable and easy to use. The other is a larger metal ball winder that winds large balls. The descriptions says "up to 10 oz," but I've wound larger balls without any problem. I love this ball winder and highly recommend it. I have it set up on my secondary craft table at all times.  The swift I own is the classic wooden swift (this link isn't the exact one I have, but it's darn close), but the metal and plastic ones are probably fine for at-home use.

4. Stitch Markers

In my years of teaching knitting, I've discovered that I'm maybe a bit pickier about stitch markers than most knitters. I really prefer the thin, rigid plastic discs, which I used to get from River Knits and now can't find online, so I can't give you a link. Instead, I'll give you a photo.

I'm also a sucker for pretty beaded stitch markers. I don't usually enjoy using them as much because they're a little fiddly for me, but they are pretty. So I use them sometimes. I really love this TARDIS set I got from Brenda and Heather Yarns at the Fiber Event.

One kind of stitch marker I absolutely cannot live without is a locking stitch marker that looks like a plastic safety pin. I use these so much! In fact, I just ordered this off-brand collection of 300 of them from Amazon. We'll see how they hold up. I rarely use this as on-needle markers. Instead, I use them to mark my place. I tend to be a row-counter, especially when it comes to matching sleeves or socks or mittens--anything that comes in twos. So it's not uncommon for a sleeve to look like this:

This project (Boxy by Joji Locatelli)  has 5 different skeins of handpainted yarns. So, I marked my transition rows and "solid" rows. I couldn't have done this without these amazing locking markers.

I know you're saying, "But what about split ring markers?"  Answer: I hate them. They fall out way too easily. I will admit that I have a few, but I only use them once in a great while. Like if I see a mistake that needs to be fixed on the next row, I'll put a spit ring marker on the spot to mark it temporarily. Otherwise. No. I don't like them. I also strongly dislike rubbery stitch markers that can stretch or bend or stick to my needles. Oh! One more thing: I mostly use small gauge needles (I don't like working with anything much over a US7), so I prefer smaller stitch markers too. I hate using a large stitch marker on a small needle.

Using the right stitch markers for ME makes my knitting life easier! Once you find something that works for you, it's perfectly fine to stick with it and be a curmudgeon about it, like I am with stitch markers.

5. Susan Bates Silvalume Handi Tool

This little guy is so handy. I've used it to pick up stitches, make a chain for a provisional cast on, work Emily Ocker's cast on, fix a pulled stitch, fix a snag on a finished garment, and more.  I've linked you to Amazon, but if you have a local yarn shop, check there. Amazon has these marked up a lot, and you can probably get it at your LYS for less than $2.

6. Apps for my iPad and iPhone (also available for Android devices)

KnitCompanion is, hands down, the most necessary app in my life. You can have all of my other apps. I have to have KnitCompanion. It's free to download and try, but it's 100% worth the $14.99 per year subscription rate. I never use paper patterns anymore. Everything is in KnitCompanion. In KC, I can set up charts, row-by-row instructions, take notes, easily refer to abbreviations and other necessary information, and so much more. It also helps familiarize me with a pattern before I cast on, which is always a good thing.

Sortly is an inventory app that I've found extremely useful for keeping track of my yarn stash (along with other collections like fabric, sewing patterns...and I just realized I could use it to keep track of knitting magazines, books, patterns, pattern booklets, etc.!). I'm kinda weird in that I like having an easily navigable inventory of stuff that I collect. So much so that I'm actually looking forward to working with my husband to inventory his vacuum tubes and possibly other components. So, why do I like having a yarn inventory on my phone? When I'm shopping for yarn, I can check to see what I already have, including colors and dye lots. I have photos for everything, which makes it easier to find other yarns that might coordinate. It also helps when I find a pattern I love because I can see if I already have yarn that will work for it. Now for the sort-of down side: Sortly has a monthly subscription price of $4.99 if you want to enter more than 100 items. To me, it's worth it because I keep track of more than just my yarn, and I'll be expanding to add other inventories as well. [Edited to add: Sortly has recently changed their subscriptions, and the $4.99/mo option is no longer available. As a legacy user, I can continue at that rate. If I weren't a legacy user, I would not sign up with Sortly now. I will likely be searching for a different app. Eventually, I'm sure they will discontinue the legacy support.] Umm..yes, I also maintain my yarn inventory in Ravelry and in Excel. Why do you ask?

Apps for listening to stuff. Amazon Music, Downcast, Audible, Chirp, Hoopla, and Libby. Those are my six most-used listening apps. Amazon Music is (duh) for music. Downcast is a podcast app. I know many are happy with the native podcast app on their iPhones, but I wasn't. I've been using Downcast for years and love it. Audible and Chirp are audiobook apps. Hoopla and Libby are apps that work with my local library to borrow audiobooks. I don't watch a lot of TV, so while the others in my house are watching TV, I'm usually listening to a podcast or audiobook.

7. Ravelry

I almost didn't add this here because it's such an obvious thing, but I figured if I added yarn and needles, I better add Ravelry.  I use Ravelry for so much, I don't know how I existed before...well, I do. I had lots of binders full of patterns, project notes, yarn inventories... you get the picture. So much paper!  Enter Ravelry: I can buy PDF patterns and open them in KnitCompanion for use. I can sell my own patterns (to enable me to buy more patterns by other designers). I can keep track of all of my projects. I can look up projects done by other people to see how they look, if they ran into any problems, or if they made any alterations. I can connect with other knitters who might have similar interests to mine. Doctor Who? Yep. Animal Crossing? Yep. Curling? Yep. You name it, there's probably a group for it!

I know someone is probably wondering how I feel about Ravelry since they made their anti-racism policy change on June 23. I fully support it. Trump and his administration have proven themselves to be highly supportive of white supremacy. Regardless of your own personal beliefs, support of the Trump administration is undoubtedly support for white supremacy. You may not consider yourself a white supremacist or a racist, but you are certainly supporting them if you support him. So, I support Ravelry, and that's that.

8. A Good Lamp

It doesn't have to be an expensive lamp, but I need good lighting when I'm knitting anything much more complicated than stockinette or garter stitch. Yes, I have a simple stockinette project just for movie theater knitting.  At home, I have this lamp from IKEA clamped to the end table. (I actually have an older version of this.) I can shine it directly at my knitting so the rest of the room can be dark, which is how my family likes it for watching TV or playing video games. And I use a bulb with relatively low lumens. I think what I'm using now is an LED that roughly equal to a 25W or 40W incandescent bulb.

9. A Supportive Spouse/Partner/Housemate

I cannot stress this enough. There are times when all of the floor space in our bedroom is taken up by blocking shawls, or the kitchen and dining table are inaccessible all weekend because I'm dyeing, or we have to turn down an invitation because it's the same day as The Fiber Event, or any other number of things related to yarn. My husband is fully supportive. Why? Because he has his own interests and side hustles that affect our life together, so he gets it! I have plenty of friends whose partners are not as supportive. They won't allow them to have a large yarn stash. They complain if there are knitting projects left on the coffee table. They expect to be able to use the kitchen to prepare a meal. (😉Yes, we can use our kitchen to prepare meals....just not while I'm dyeing...) I guess what I'm saying is this: My husband makes my life easier by being supportive of my interests and activities.

So there you have it: the nine things I can't live without that all work together to make my life easier, simpler, and much better.

PS: I'm planning a big announcement Friday, so be sure to check back!! 

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